(Scripture Reading: Matthew 23:11, 12; Suggested Hymn:

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #145)

By Peter Bath, Senior Pastor, Sligo Adventist Church, Takoma Park, Maryland

Summary: As Christians we are called to have a prophetic voice, one that challenges the routine perspective of society.

Introduction. Christians today are called to live in a world that listens to the voices of profits and prophets. One promises immediate satisfaction to an individual or corporation, the other, taking a larger scope and value looks to the betterment of others.

Profit or prophet? Which voice speaks with more conviction for you? Which is the voice of scripture?

Now lest you make the mistake of many and think that the prophetic voice of scripture has to do only with the future and apocalyptic images of beasts and dragons, let me point out that the prophetic voice of scripture speaks more about how to live now than it does the future. As Christians we are called to have a prophetic voice, one that challenges the routine perspective of society. One that dares to ask why, or why not of the behaviors of our modern day. A voice that dares to make a mind think, that speaks of the fundamental worth of humankind, a voice that speaks to and for our brothers and sisters around the world who have no voice.

Sent by God. In the Old Testament it was the prophet sent by God who interrupted the lives of the people in the midst of their misguided ways. Lives that were perhaps lived faithfully to what they believed true, but misguided nonetheless. It was the prophet who invited them to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.

It was the prophet who dared to call evil by its right name, resisting the temptation to explain it or sooth it away. It was the prophet whom the people killed, for few like to hear of the need for reformation and change.

Prophet killing. So too, we kill the prophets today. We call them extremist or radicals as those in the Sierra Club or Green Peace were called until the environment became a politically viable platform, or even good marketing. Yet today in the midst of energy shortages the lure of corporate profit struggles with the prophetic voice that calls for responsible stewardship.

Fundamental to this struggle are the values upon which they are based. Profit is about power, gain and responsible investment return for shareholders, retirement plans and the like. Prophet is about doing what is right regardless of who benefits, but intentionally to benefit all.

Profit has unfortunately seen the end as justifying the means. Examples are many: tobacco industry hiring scientists to deny the toxic nature of cigarettes; major sugar producers holding lands in third world countries preventing indigenous agricultural development, further impoverishing the people. Unfortunately even the church throughout the ages has been guilty of letting the ends justify the means?think of the crusades.

Enough is enough. But before you feel indignant, think about this: corporations focusing on profit are vital to our world’s development. The question of how development differs from exploitation is dependant upon our societal values and principles. As long as we choose sports utility vehicles over the diminishing supplies of energy, as long as we choose to demand continuous short-term profits we will have short-term exploitation. After all, everyone enjoyed the soaring stock market didn’t they?

How high must the standards of living be before we can say enough is enough? It is the prophetic voice that has been muted by the explosion of wealth, power and success. The prophetic voice that calls us to values that includes the well-being of others, including planet earth, is muted by the turmoil of modern priorities and values.

Gordon Dahl describes it this way: ?Most ? tend to worship their work, work at their play and play at their worship.? Think about it. We worship our work, which for most of us is the source of our identity. We then find ourselves becoming weekend warriors—working at our play with an intensity that challenges the idea of play, struggling as a broken people to further prove ourselves. And then we play at our worship, for God has become just another good-luck charm on the bracelet o f life. Dahl goes on to say, ?The result of all this is that our meanings and values are distorted. Our relationships are disintegrating faster than they can be repaired. And our lifestyles resemble a cast of Hollywood actors in search of a plot.?

How are you doing? In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of money more than anything else except the kingdom of God. He spoke of it as being both dark and sinister, as being that which controls and yet he also spoke of it as a blessing. He ate with the rich and the powerful, the poor and the powerless alike. It is in all that He said and did that we are to see that we are invited to regard and experience money not as master but as servant. To relate to it as prophet not profit. As one submitting all that I have to the will of the Father. Ultimately all business is His business.

So how are you doing as you listen to profit and prophet? I express my kingdom priorities best through the two books that I write every day, books of values that record how I spend my time and my money. The challenge I face is to ensure that my values and priorities are aligned with those of the kingdom, with the prophets of God, not the profits of man.

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October–December, 2001

Simplicity